Yesterday my novelist's critique group got the last chapter of How Home Home Improvemement Saved My Marriage, and I'm gratified to report that collectivly, they loved the ending. I had that ending in my head long before I had a beginning or a middle, so it's nice to know that all the work I did creating a story to match it actually worked. After hearing their ideas, I have a few things to change in the last chapters, but not much. And then I can really call my book done. Then I have to write a 3-5 page synopsis (I already have a one-pager), and start querying literary agents en mass.
At first I thought I'd go the NY agent route, like you would expect. But based on my experiences at the writer's conference, and this week, the rejection from the agent who didn't connect with the narrative voice, I'm beginning to think my book just isn't hip enough for New York. Like me, it would very much like to live in NY, and hang out with the literary elite, sipping Cosmos (or whatever chi chi drink is hot right now), at a swanky bar in Vogue-ready designer clothes, and Christian Louboutin red soles. But the reality is, both of us would rather live somewhere with grass, hang out with our quirky suburban mom friends, sipping diluted juice from a lidless sippy cup, at the local pizza place, in snot free clothes and shoes with enough traction to catch an errant toddler.
True story... at the writer's conference, I met with a very nice agent from NYC, who said to me, and I am loosely quoting here, "You're writing a book about marriage, but Alex and Will are babies! (In the book they get married after grad school.) I don't know anyone who gets married THAT young. Everyone I know waits til they're in their forties."
And I just look at her, thinking to myself "Well, no wonder I can't find a book I relate to."
Have you noticed that it is well nigh impossible to find a humorous book written about a young married couple? You can find a thousand books about single women looking for Mr. Right, and humorous books about pregnancy, motherhood, divorce, knitting, and quilting, but I defy you to find one book about the early years of marriage that is funny and doesn't have a character contemplating infidelity or (in one case) having an abortion.
When I mentioned this to another NY agent at the conference, and added that my book was very relate-able and timely because my characters were going through hardships everyone could relate to (like financial struggles, work stress, etc) he told me that readers don't want to read about "depressing" things they can relate to. Apparently, when the going gets tough, the tough turn to escapist fiction. And in my case, I turn to California.
There are quite a few literary agents in California, with strong ties to the TV and movie industry. I've been told on more than one occassion that Alex and Will's story would play well on the big screen in the same way that The Money Pit did. So I'm turning my attention there for the time being. I'll be interested to hear their feedback. Somewhere, there is an agent who will realize that the world needs Home Improvement.
I'm convinced that if I do a tour of home improvement and hardware stores, do book signings and readings there, and hit up the thousands of women who are there with their husbands wondering if their relationship will survive their latest project, my book will sell and it will be enjoyed. And really, that's all I could ask for.